Cooking School

Taking the First Step to a Lifetime of Better Cooking with the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School

Becoming a good cook takes time. Cooking school student Collin Fok decided he didn’t want to wait any longer.

Published June 21, 2018.

In our new Student Spotlight series, we'll be featuring some of the star students who have used the America's Test Kitchen Cooking School to improve their cooking confidence. The School welcomes all types of cooks—from the true novice to the impressively experienced—into our digital test kitchen, where they’re greeted by familiar faces in one-of-a-kind videos and interactive exercises that go beyond the recipe.


America's Test Kitchen Cooking School is filled with passionate home cooks, and there’s nothing we enjoy more than learning about their cooking journeys. Today we’re spotlighting Collin Fok, a cooking school student from Fairfield, California, who wanted to gain the skills to cook more than the simple and quick meals like Top Ramen noodles and store-bought pasta and sauce that he’d grown accustomed to ever since leaving his parents’ home for college many years ago.

“I never ventured too far away from easy recipes because I lacked the skills in more refined cooking,” Collin shared.

Collin was familiar with America’s Test Kitchen’s television shows, and when he decided to make cooking a priority, he started taking classes in our Cooking School. Almost a year later, he’s improved his knife skills and his confidence, even going from buying store-bought turkeys for Thanksgiving to wowing his family and coworkers with his holiday meals.

Collin Fok photo and quote

What inspired you to join the Cooking School?

As I grow older, I've begun to appreciate home cooking and I want to be a better cook. I grew up watching a lot of cooking shows on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and I wanted to cook like the chefs I saw on TV. When I started to get serious about becoming a better cook, I gravitated to America's Test Kitchen because of their down-to-earth, welcoming atmosphere.

How have you cooking habits changed since joining the Cooking School?

Since I joined the Cooking School, I’ve begun to feel more confident about venturing into more complicated dishes that I always wanted to make but was afraid to. It took two steps. I first learned the basic fundamentals of good cooking in the cooking basics classes, such as proper knife-cutting skills and understanding the purpose of basic ingredients. Second, I started taking the technique classes and recipe lessons. When I took a course, I never felt I was going through it alone. I always had a complete, well thought out recipe that includes videos, step-by-step photos instructions, common mistakes people make, and a quiz to see if my dish turned out right. It's like going to culinary school and I really enjoyed the process.

Before, I simply followed the instructions with no idea why I'm doing it, but now I have a better understanding of the culinary reasons behind it.

What is the most useful skill you’ve learned?

Knowing the basics, at least to me, are the foundation of good cooking. The most useful skill I learned was the proper use of a knife. The proper hold of a knife and using it to cut foods are essential to me. Cooking and slicing the ingredients correctly makes a difference in good cooking.

What have you learned that surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most is how eggs are used as a glue in cooking. When I took the Breaded Chicken Cutlets recipe class, I learned that the key to success for this recipe is to use eggs as a glue to adhere the bread crumbs to the chicken breast. I never knew how important eggs can be for a recipe like this. Any other recipe for breaded chicken cutlets would not explain this but the Cooking School did. It's these little bits of information that take my understanding of cooking to the next level.

Collin Fok photo and quote

What is a recipe or technique that you were afraid to tackle before joining the Cooking School that you feel comfortable with now?

I dreaded making a holiday turkey for my family and friends. This iconic bird was so intimidating that I often bought a prepared turkey at the supermarket for cooking. But using the recipe lesson from the Cooking School changed all that. The combination of video and photo instructions really made this recipe easy to understand and cook. I lost my fear in making holiday meals.

When I brought the turkey to work, [my coworkers] said it was delicious. They said my turkey tasted better than what they can make at home. I was proud of myself.

What's been your favorite course?

My favorite course is the Brown Soda Bread recipe lesson. I always wanted to make breads but I was afraid to do it because I lacked the skills. However, making this soda bread recipe changed all that. It turned out tasting delicious. I will make it over and over again for my future meals. It's that good.

Have you shown off your new skills? If so, how?

Yes, I have shown off my new skills to my family and friends. When I made the Classic Holiday Turkey recipe, I made one for Thanksgiving for my family and also for an office party at work. My family are polite so they would never tell me that I made a bad meal, but my coworkers are more frank. When I brought the turkey to work, they said it was delicious. They said my turkey tasted better than what they can make at home. I was proud of myself.

How has the Cooking School experience changed the way you think about food or cooking?

The Cooking School changed my way of thinking for both food and cooking in a more positive way. I learned to appreciate the basic ingredients that go into cooking. Knowing the fundamentals behind the basic ingredients such as herbs, the types of flours, and the types of salts help me better understand how each ingredient contributes to the finished dish. Before, I simply followed the instructions with no idea why I'm doing it, but now I have a better understanding of the culinary reasons behind it.

The Cooking School is designed with the home cook in mind. If you enjoy watching America's Test Kitchen's TV shows, then you would want to join their Cooking School because it's like working with stars on TV. Their step-by-step video and photo instructions really make learning enjoyable. I never felt I was on my own when learning.

I've learned that cooking is a lifelong learning experience. What I'm getting from Cooking School are the skills and knowledge to tackle any recipe I might find. If you're serious about being a better cook, I recommend not having a mindset of being a master chef overnight. Being a good cook takes time.

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Join thousands of other home cooks like Collin and see for yourself what the Cooking School has to offer. More than 200 how-to videos, 5,000 up-close photos, a student photo gallery, and convenient buying guides await your arrival—and you can access everything on any device (start on your phone, pick up where you left off on your tablet). 
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What cooking skill do you want to improve upon? Let us know in the comments! And for more stories from our Cooking School students, check out these other Student Spotlights:

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